What Are You Buying for Christmas?

By Tom Dardick

It’s not a day; it’s a season. Over the past few decades, the season has swollen. You know why – commercial pressure. The Hallmark Channel dedicates its programming to the season, and has done so since November 1st. Décor goes directly from orange and black to red and green. Black Friday used to mark the start of the shopping season, but no longer. It now signifies the height of the shopping madness. 

Don’t get me wrong – I love the Holiday season. The decorations, music, and Christmas cheer lifts the spirit. But as with all things, there is a price. We pay for the commercialization with anxiety (along with the purchase of goods, some of which will never be used.)

“Have you finished your shopping yet?” This is the national conversation starter at this time of year. The planning, the parties, the pabulum – it takes over our lives for two months out of every year. Nearly everyone will echo Dr. Seuss’s message in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas: that Christmas is about something a little more. Many just don’t live like it.

So the question is: “What are you buying for Christmas?” I’m not asking about what gifts you bought. I’m asking what you believe about Christmas. 

Maybe you embrace the traditions. Our “Santa Claus Christmas” traditions incorporate elements and imagery that date into the mists of history. But mostly, our practices coalesced in 19th century America and Western Europe. Gift-giving, a practice during the winter solstice that predates the birth of Christ, dominates. Is this true for you?

Maybe you look forward to gatherings with family and friends. This is the part that has always been a major source of joy for me. It changes over the years. When you’re a child, you lose sleep in anticipation of receiving your favorite toys. As a parent, your joy comes through the joy of your children. 

It shifts again when your kids outgrow the “magic” of Santa. In our family, we have established replacement traditions – Christmas Eve worship, followed by a leisurely, Christmas music-filled drive around nearby neighborhoods to look at the various house decorations, then home for hot chocolate. Christmas day always includes a meal with the extended family.

Maybe your traditions are more connected to the real reason for the season. It may not be the actual day of Christ’s birth, but we’ve adopted the day of December 25th to celebrate the gifts of Christ. In the hustle of modern Christmas, many lose sight of what those are. Scripture tells us that these are the fruit of the spirit - love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Would you agree that these gifts beat a sweater or a videogame?

Again there is a price. Unlike the simple unwrapping of a present, these gifts require something of you. You are required to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of person you’re going to be. You have to decide is this “idea” worth the price.